Avril and Neil have transformed their Victorian terraced house into a light-filled family home that cleverly blends traditional features and materials with a cool, minimalist design.
In 2008, Avril and Neil took the plunge and bought a traditional Victorian terraced house in Wanstead, East London. It was the perfect launchpad for their vision to create a dynamic and light-filled home that seamlessly blends the old and the new. Here, KBB journo Ben Webb chats to Neil and the architect to learn more about the transformation…
The renovation of the Victorian terraced house
The couple did not launch straight into the work and instead took their time to decide exactly what they needed. “We just bedded in for several years to see how we used the house and then we took our time to prioritise the work,” Neil recalls. That work included a loft conversion, plus an extension and a reconfiguration of the downstairs living space.
Once the loft was completed, they hired Dan Rees, of Rees Architects, to design the kitchen and dining room extension. It was an easy decision because Dan shared their vision. “He was the only architect we talked to who was intent on preserving the original features of the house,” says Neil. “He wanted to let them shine as part of a modern design.”
The kitchen design
The objective was to build an extension and then reconfigure the ground-floor space. The couple were keen to remove the cramped galley kitchen and create a generous space. It would be the space where the family – who love to cook and bake – could spend more time together. As the property is in a conservation area, each step was carefully considered to ensure it was approved.
The large kitchen island is where the family spend most of their time at the weekend. And, the hidden pantry and ample storage mean kitchen items can be easily hidden away. When not in use, it can swiftly return to being an uncluttered living space. “It’s a killer feature,” says Neil. “When we are not using it as a kitchen, we can enjoy the beautiful minimalist design.”
The pared-back design incorporates some very clever ideas:
- The oven and hob are integrated into the kitchen island. They have a downdraft extractor that was engineered to run beneath the floor to the outside.
- The chimney flue in the dining room had to be retained. So, a wall of tall storage cupboards was installed in front of it to house the washing machine, tumble dryer, fridge-freezer and pantry space.
- The central pantry doors fold out 180° to reveal a handy preparation area for tea and coffee. And, the lines and shadows created by the chimney above the cupboards add to the drama.
The subtle colour palette of off-whites, browns and dark tones is minimalist but never uber-cool and cold. Organic materials such as wood add interest and warmth to the design.
With its flecks of light and neutral tones, the black terrazzo of the island breaks up the solidity of the structure. In the recess of the breakfast bar, blackened steel has been lacquered to avoid corrosion. On the kitchen side of the island, the drawers are made with matt-black Fenix, a durable smart material that resists scratches. And it’s designed to last.
“We wanted the works to respect the old house,” says Dan. “We don’t want to follow trends where colours quickly go in and out of fashion and the kitchen has to be replaced after five years.”
The dining area
The new dining area, with its floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, unites the two spaces, especially on warm days, when the doors are left open. “We use the space exactly as we imagined and it’s really made it much easier to spend time together cooking, eating, relaxing and socialising,” adds Neil.